How to Support Small Batch Mexican Producers of Mezcal in Houston

Photo by Phaedra Cook
These gentlemen don't make it to Houston often because they're usually making mezcal. From left: Emilio Vieyra, Miguel Partida and Aquilino Garcia Lopez

Cuchara and The Pastry War collaborated on a dinner last week in honor of three very special guests who had never before all been in the same place at the same time in the United States. Many would not know them, but to those interested in agave spirits, these men are rock stars.

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Urban Harvest Farmers Market Celebrates 10 Years With Fundraiser Dinner at Underbelly

The Urban Harvest Farmers Market has been in operation for ten years. The non-profit organization, Urban Harvest, was started 20 years ago in 1994, but over the past decade, the farmers markets (Saturdays at Eastside and Wednesdays at City Hall) have become the place to buy fresh vegetables, support local businesses and eat scrumptious food.

Market manager, Tyler Horne, says the growth process of the markets has definitely been slow and steady. Over the years the vendor lineup has expanded and improved, drawing more customers each weekend and Wednesday afternoon.

"Now with such an incredible lineup of vendors, it's established itself as the best place to go and spend a Saturday morning to shop for fresh vegetables and it encompasses so many other things than just shopping," Horne says. "We've got non-profits out there; we've got chefs; we've got live music; it's just the place you can go to get plugged in to what's going on in the community as well."

And what better way to reflect on the past ten years and celebrate the market's successes than by throwing a 10 Year Anniversary Fundraiser Dinner featuring local chefs and farmers? On Sunday, November 9, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., Houston chefs paired with a specific farm featured at the market will each prepare a special dish to serve to guests at Underbelly. Chef Chris Shepherd has been a long-time supporter of local farms and the Urban Harvest farmers market, so it's fitting that his restaurant is the venue for this anniversary celebration.

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Upcoming Fall Produce & New Vendors at Urban Harvest Farmers Market

Categories: Market Watch

Photo by Steven Depolo via Flickr
Pomegranates will be available in the coming weeks.
We got a little taste of fall this past weekend with cooler temperatures after torrential downpours, and I don't know about you, but it had me longing for the fall season to arrive quickly. It's time to say goodbye to the horribly hot weather and hello to cool breezy days.

But let's be real, the best part of the autumn season isn't just the cooler temperatures outside, it's the produce.

We spoke with Urban Harvest Market Manager Tyler Horne about the fruits, vegetables and herbs coming soon to grocery stores and farmers markets, and we also got the scoop on which new vendors will be setting up shop at Urban Harvest this season.

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Does Houston Hate Celebrity Chefs?

Categories: Market Watch

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Katsuya + Stark intended to bring sexy back to Houston, but it didn't work out.

In 2009, a restaurant in The Heights named Bedford closed. It was the latest Houston project of acclaimed chef Robert Gadsby. How significant was this event? Well, Gadsby came to Houston with a star reputation. Five years prior, the Houston Press restaurant critic at the time, Robb Walsh, wrote an article entitled "The Great Gadsby" with the subheading, "One of Hollywood's top cooking stars is moving to Houston."

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Sign Up for One of Houston's Many CSA Boxes for Fresh Produce Year-Round

Photo courtesy Farmhouse Delivery
Sign up to receive a box of fresh produce every week of the year.
There's something fun about wandering around a farmers' market on a Saturday morning, perusing the produce and deciding what to make later that evening to best showcase your fresh finds. But there's also a thrill in picking up a pre-packed box from a local farm, taking it home and discovering what's inside. Every week or month it's a surprise, but it's always local and always as fresh as can be.

That's the concept behind CSA boxes, popular in California and (surprisingly) the Midwest, but just catching on here in Houston. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and the idea is simple: A farmer sells "shares" of the farm (often in the form of these boxes full of treats) to community members. The arrangement benefits the farmers, who get paid up front and have a chance to market directly to their customers, as well as the people who own shares in the farm and get a piece of its bounty on a regular basis.

In Houston and the surrounding area, a number of farms participate in Community Supported Agriculture, providing boxes of produce that can be picked up at various spots around town.

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Using Google Trend Reports to Predict Future Food Trends

Photo by Pamela
Will anything trump cupcakes?
We recently came across an article on the Huffington Post food section (you know, an ideal source for incredibly accurate news), and found an article entitled "According To Google, Nothing Is Ever Going To Trump The Cupcake."

That can't be right, we thought, weary of the cupcake. It's been a very trendy food item for years now, and while most food writers and chefs admit to being so over the cupcake, the Huffington Post claims that Google Trends shows the cupcake's popularity isn't in decline. Unfortunately.

The image above shows the comparisons the HuffPo author made to prove that the cupcake is still going strong.

Disheartened, we made our own chart showing the rise of the cupcake and other similar baked goods.

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As Lime Prices Skyrocket, Bars and Restaurants Feel the Squeeze

Categories: Market Watch

Photo by Steve Hopson
Limes are worth their weight in gold these days.
When you start to Google the word "lime" these days, the first thing that pops up is "lime prices," followed by "lime prices going up," "lime prices increase," and "lime prices rise." If you're looking for recipes with lime, you're going to have to dig a little deeper, because right now, all the news is about the green stuff. Money, that is.

Mexico is one of the world's largest lime producers. The country just south of us provides the United States with 97 percent of the limes we consume, or nearly 500,000 tons annually, according to the Wall Street Journal. But this winter, Mexico's lime-growing regions were hurt by unusually heavy rains and wind. And then there are the cartels, which are plundering farms and hijacking trucks full of limes because the green citrus has become so valuable. Limes are up to as much as $1 each in grocery stores, and a 40-pound crate, typically about $25 has risen to $100. Currently, limes are worth more by weight than crude oil in Mexico.

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Ever Wanted to Go Vegetarian? Now's the Time as Beef, Pork Prices Soar

Photo by Cgoodwin
Santa Gertrudis beef cows graze on King Ranch in Texas
Thanks to a drought across much of the major cattle-ranching states and a deadly pig virus, we may soon be doing what those pesky Chick-fil-A cows are always encouraging on the billboards: "Eat mor chikin." Or veggies. Or tofu.

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that beef prices are the highest they've been since 1987, and pork prices are up 13 percent from last year, just in time for the start of grilling season nationwide.

David Anderson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, tells NPR that the reason behind higher-than-average increases in beef costs is in large part drought, particularly in Texas, the nation's largest producer of beef cattle. Drought leads to fewer feed crops, which leads to fewer cows. Coupled with an increase in demand for American beef in China, we're looking at a small supply and big prices.

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City Hall Farmers Market to Relocate in May

Categories: Market Watch, News

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The City Hall Farmers Market will move to a new location in the first week of May.
The City Hall Farmers Market must relocate during the first week of May, a change forced by a plumbing project to be carried out on the Reflection Pond at City Hall. The construction is set to begin on May 1, so the market will be heading down the street and around the corner to the front of the Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library at 550 McKinney Street. The market will extend into the Houston Public Library's plaza.

Don't freak out when you head to City Hall for lunch on Wednesday, May 7, and don't see any food trucks or vendors. The market isn't gone, it has simply moved. Tyler Horne, market manager at Urban Harvest, says there won't be much change to the market, just the layout and location.

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Your Guide to Spring Produce in Houston

Photo by whitneyinchicago
Top delicate pastry tartlets with fresh in-season blueberries.
Although the weather has been hot and cold during the past several weeks (I think it listens to Katy Perry wayyy too much), the spring season has arrived. And with it comes an array of new fruits, vegetables and herbs for you to cook with and eat.

Say goodbye to the heavy winter squashes like butternut, acorn and pumpkin, and say hello to a whole new array of bright and vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables.

We spoke with Tyler Horne, market manager at Urban Harvest Farmers Market, about the spring produce available now and in the coming months at the farmers markets in Houston. After a few freezes and frosts this winter, as well as a recent week of rainy days, many farmers are bringing the first wave of their spring harvest to the markets.

"The rain is pretty much needed right now," Horne says. "It's the time of year that we really need it so the farms get everything planted...These frosts have pushed the harvest dates two weeks later than they normally are. They got all of these late-season frosts, and so the farmers were having a hard time keeping up. So, tomatoes are in the ground later than they really should be. A lot of the peaches won't be here because they got such a bad freeze. My poor farmer that grows tomatoes ended up putting them in the ground and lost a ton of plants; he didn't expect to have a hard freeze."

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